Nickelodeon goes back to the well, which is to say the ’90s, when “The Splat” block launches tonight.

Billed as a nightly “multiscreen content destination,” Nickelodeon’s nostalgic programming block resuscitates classic cartoon series like The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, and Hey Arnold! for a generation plugged not just into television, but also the Internet and social media. Nickelodeon’s time-warp down memory lane is going so far as to air original promos, interstitials, and programming stunts, and even replicate schedules as they aired in the ’90s.

Screening for eight hours nightly from 10pm to 6am on TeenNick, the Splat also includes a dedicated website and social media outreach built with fandom new and old in mind. The last time these shows aired, memes, emojis, GIFs and social-media marketing were barely dreams in the entertainment industry’s brain. Today, there is simply no good financial or technological reason for Nickelodeon to refuse to give old-school fans what they really want, especially when they can tap that energized base to create an entirely new generation of followers who weren’t even alive when the shows first aired.

“We have been listening closely to our first generation of Nick kids that are craving the great characters and shows they grew up with watching Nickelodeon in the ’90s,” Viacom kids and family group president Cyma Zarghami said in a press release. “We designed The Splat with fans and their requests in mind, which means we’re bringing together these beloved series and a high level of digital engagement.”

According to Nickelodeon, the Splat features:

  • TeenNick’s rotating TV lineup of animated and live-action series, including All That, Angry Beavers, Are You Afraid of the Dark, CatDog, Clarissa Explains It All, Hey Arnold!, Hey Dude, Kenan & Kel, Ren & Stimpy, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rocko’s Modern Life, Rugrats, Salute Your Shorts and The Wild Thornberrys, as well as additional series throughout the year.
  • Themed weeks and stunts, such as “First Time for Everything,” which starts tonight and features the first two episodes of animated and live-action series and game shows; “Rugrats Reptar Takeover,” which begins Oct. 12 and highlights episodes featuring the dino uber-toy, Reptar; “Hey Arnold! Live from the Stoop,” which starts Oct. 19 and features Stoop Kid-centric episodes; and “Nick or Treat,” which kicks off Oct. 26 with a call-in event for fans looking to score swag and watch Halloween-themed cartoons.
  • A social media outreach campaign across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube, which also offers fans a chance to “influence the on-air and online experience,” said Nickelodeon. This includes “The Splat” Emoji Keyboard, which launches in early October on iTunes and Android and contains over 30 Nickelodeon emoticons, stickers and GIFs from Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and others.

    Indeed, it is within this social mediascape where the clamor for Nickelodeon’s past glory has gone viral, which in turn has compelled the sagging network to give birth to this new block on a spin-off channel exclusively aimed at teens and tweens. And to be frank, Nickelodeon, now 36 years old and aging fast, could use the retro boost. With the demise of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, Nickelodeon has arguably struggled to create original shows as memorable and unique as Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, and The Wild Thornberrys.

    Let’s hope the Splat inspires the network’s executives and artists to go back to the future and take risks to create something that is equally timeless.

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